It’s been another year and episode of climate change 301. Rivers heating up way too early, droughts, crazy disappearance of hatches and of course the plague of cicadas and gypsy moths- apocalyptical eh? Everyone and every predating aquatic beast wants a piece of this big mayfly bug action. Fly fishers, swallows and red-breasted black birds, ducks and most of all; big brown, brook and rainbows want to chomp and make pigs of themselves on them. It started in May and will continue heavily through June and July. Meet the often enigmatic, always aristocratic and forever beckoning Drakes and Hexagenia- big dry mayflies that bring out the beast in anglers and wild predators! …but what happened to the gray drakes? -brace yourself for a tearful tale.
The green drakes went fast this year due to the heat and drought in many areas. Abnormally warm and severe droughts are the norm now and rather scary for many. In Michigan, the land of water and cooler weather, we are having a hundred year drought as I write this. But the dismal to non-existent gray drakes of spring 2021 ( keep in mind they were at all time epic levels in 2020) are just another canary in the coalmine with climate change variables. Thus things can only get better- can’t get much worse eh!
This currently devastating scenario has had a disastrous impact on our gray drake (Siphlonurus) mayfly hatch. These unique wet climate loving beautiful bugs, which Michigan perhaps has a 90% gluttony inventory of them in the world ( the Baltic countries are the other mainstay of the hatch) which migrate and crawl to shore to hatch in the backwater eddies/swamps and wet banks/trees and grass.
The cold, often very rainy and well soaked rivers of Michigan with their dense forests and spring bogs are evolution’s Mecca for these beautiful mayflies. Unfortunately dry 100 year droughts don’t do well for them. One thing of utmost importance the biologists must realize as they manage wild trout rivers and populations is each river must be treated as unique micro-ecosystems where a “one size fits” all approach to management doesnt do well for populations. With the drakes demise it will be a long time before they come back to the strength we had the past three “flood-wet” springs, which our Michigan wetland forests has evolved into for 100’s of thousands of years. Extremities with climate change are devastating as we are seeing with the lose of wild salmon and steelhead on the west coast.
REASON: Since our rivers dried up significantly the last two months and shorelines where exposed 5-10-15 feet in some instances or more, the poor nymphs basically dried up and perished. The impacts will be devastating for some time and years to come. Last year’s hatch was the most monumental we have seen in decades by far with literally spinner falls 24/7. Though we have had drought years in the past 30 years and still had gray drake hatches, we had sufficient snow pack and spring high flows which are normal. The winter of 2020/2021 saw almost no snow and we had zero run-off effect. Plus the two rainiest months on the calendar for Michigan: April and May, saw little to zero rainfall. This truly mind-boggling for a state known for rain and snow and cold weather. It is another tragic tale of climate change and more unfortunate natural causalities coming. Last week we had daily fire weather warnings which is impossible for Michigan at this time of year! Our morel mushrooms season was the worst on the books in decades also- moisture driven also.
But the good news is possibly on the horizon if river temps don’t soar out of control. The brown drakes and Isonychia are just starting and at peak in many case areas. These are meaty mayflies that bring explosive surface feeding. The Hexagenia and Recurvata giant mayflies are already starting up in northern Michigan lakes…So!, there is hope yet for big bug matchers!-keep the faith ( Blogger’s Note: next blog- the next wave of big bugs- Brown Drakes and Isonychias- and the Hex)
The spring/summer issue of www.hallowedwaters.com is the current bible on all things big mayfly hatches in the “Mayfly Aristocracy” piece. Our 25K feature on the big mayflies brings you every detail, amazing fly patterns and recipes and experts from every part of the country on these hatches and catching big trout on them. If you love brown drakes, yellow drakes, Isonychias and of course the giant Hexagenia, this article is must! It is our “Mayfly Celebration Issue ” – the only magazine journal dedicated to the hatches and passion for trout/salmon/steelhead fly fishing exclusively!
Subscribe to www.hallowedwaters.com today!…and totally re-think your relationship with trout and salmon like never before -the journey starts here!